The most prominent features of northern of Point Reyes are Tomales Bay, the wide open range land, Drake’s Estro, and it’s many surf-battered beaches. But it also provides a refuge for the very rare Bishop Pine. The 1995 Vision Fire engulfed the Mount Vision hillside and burned 12,354 acres of bishop pine forest and coastal scrub.
Douglas Fir dominates the southern half of Point Reyes peninsula’s forest land. (In contrast, Bishop Pine flourishes in the north.) Point Reyes represents a far southern outpost for the species; its stronghold being the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia. Take a turn around the southern half of the peninsula, exploring the major ecological zones and visiting the Rift Zone – where the San Andrea Fault separates Point Reyes from it’s mainland neighbor.
The Purisima Redwoods is primarily a well maintained circuit, but the southwestern end seems to terminate at Lobitos Creek. Circumnavigate the park and then explore the Lobitos Creek trail and look for any signs of the creek.
Pacifica’s Montara region can be accessed from the inland San Pedro Park or the Coastal McNee Ranch. From either route, one can press inland and explore the peaks in this area of the coastal range, including the local maximums, North Peak.
Find a route from San Pedro Park to the coast and back again.
During Prohibition (1920s and 1930s) Ranchers set up distilleries hidden in the Mount Diablo region to supplement their hand-to-mouth existence. Help the ranchers in their elicit enterprise and move some hooch out of Jackass Canyon.
Insertion Point: Finley Road, Clayton, CA
It’s the 1920’s and Prohibition is in full swing across the United States. Moonshiners have sprung up throughout the ranches and farms in California. A remote canyon on the east side of Mount Diablo has developed a reputation for “jackass” whiskey – and the canyon itself soon adopts the namesake. It’s become a hive of moonshiners and drawn the attention of the Prohis, Federal Prohibition agents. The moonshiners have tapped the Tassajara Creek that runs through the Canyon floor, using spring boxes to distill the hooch. To protect the operation, armed sentries stand watch from the cave marked cliffs of the Black Hills that overlook the canyon.
Your circuit begins at the entrance to Old Finely Road among the ranches that use the parkland for cattle grazing. Head west on Old Finely Road. (map)
Abandoned Ranchland Home
Continue along Old Finely Road until you reach a modest abandoned structure. The ranchers often use this area for cattle grazing and it marks an important fork in the road. Here you will leave Old Finely Road and proceed west onto Oyster Pt Trail. Immediately, look for a small unmarked single track that leaves the main trail and follow it through a short grove until it intersects with Jackass Canyon Trail.
Follow Jackass Canyon Trail into the canyon itself until you reach the End of Trail maker. From here, you’ve entered the illicit zone. The maintained trail fragments into animal trails, which in turn dissolve into brush and, in some parts, bushwhacking. Moonshiners, Prohis, and marksmen lurk amid the canyon so proceed with care.
Drop deep into the Canyon to visit the sites of stills and springboxes that feed on Tassajara Creek.
Black Hills Ridge Line
Ascend to the craggy ridge line that overlooks the canyon. Here you will fine pock marked sandstone that offers many hiding places for the armed sentries to use when guarding the cottage industry below.
Scramble along just beneath the ridge line until you reach the ridge’s zenith: Cave Point. From here, continue your bushwhack until you reach the main road.
Exit the Illicit Zone
You’re out of the canyon and you can move quickly on the maintained fire road. But, you’re also vulnerable. Move fast until you reach the main gate, beyond which is official parkland.
After several miles on the fire road you will hit a juncture. Leading to the west is Oyster Point trail, which will return you to the insertion point. But, the Prohis are getting close. A few miles down Oyster Point trail break off and head up to Oyster Point itself. From here you have a view of the entire region and you can hide out briefly while the Heat passes. Once the coast is clear, use Oyster Point Trail to return to the insertion point at Finely Road.
It’s time to enjoy a bit of that Jackass. Saint George Spirits in Alameda specializes in craft spirits and has a few whiskeys in its lineup. Stop by for a cocktail or keep it authentic and enjoy it neat.
Retrace the railroad. Start by taking the Mountain Division (former South Paciﬁc Coast RR & Santa Cruz & Felton RR) up from Santa Cruz to just south of Los Gatos (the original terminus) to the ghost towns of Alma and Lyndon. Unfortunately, there’s no view of these ghost towns as their sites lay beneath the Lexington resevoir. From here cut west to intersect the Felton & Pescadero Railroad at Boulder Creek. Take the Boulder Creek branch south through Ben Lomond and finally rejoining the Mountain Division at Felton, which of course returns to Santa Cruz. Rather than retrace this ground, scout out another route, east of the Mountain Line, and assess its suitbility for another narrow gauge line to compete with the entrenched tycoons.
Established by the Spanish in the 1840′s, the New Almaden Quicksilver mines produced cinnabar, the raw ore from which mercury is extracted. New Almaden served as a productive mining center for twelve decades through Spanish, Mexican, and US rule. Hit a series of key shafts and tunnels then report back to the Mine Office and Map House at English Town.
Insertion: Hacienda Trail, New Almaden, CA
New Almaden is the longest running, most profitable mining operation in California history. The Ohlone Indians, who themselves had collected cinnabar from the region for thousands of years, revealed the deposits to the Spanish, who began their own mining operation in 1846. During the California Gold Rush, mining accelerated to a feverish pace and ultimately changed from Spanish to American hands. The Quicksilver Mining Company assumed operations in 1864. Mercury is useful as an agent in gold mining and, tellingly, New Almaden generated more wealth during the California Gold Rush than gold itself.
In 1927, the New Almaden mine finally ceased operations and remained dormant until the late 1930s. But, the Second World War has once again introduced the urgent need for mercury, this time for the manufacture of munitions.
To assist in the war effort, the New Almaden Company has resumed operations, building several new mining offices (including one at English Town) and the Gould Rotary Furnace in an effort to modernize and produce more ore at a lower cost. Many of the mines date to the 1880s and 90s and the region is largely depleted. Nevertheless, your job is to survey a collection of these sites and report back to the mining office at English Town.
Your route begins at the north trail head on Hacienda Trail.
Buena Vista Pumphouse
The Buena Vista Pumphouse operated from 1882 – 1893 and has laid in ruins for some time. Even while in operation, it never produced much ore; it’s main role was to pump water out of other (more productive) tunnels.
Santa Isabel Shaft
The Santa Isabel Shaft commenced operation in 1877 and was a prolific producer of ore. However, by 1894 it was depleted and converted to supply carbonic acid gas for the budding dry ice industry.
Trail to the April Trestle
In the valley below, the abandoned St. George Shaft is just visible. Circa 1887, this shaft was fully operational and surrounded by Kempville, a small cluster of miner’s cottages.
The April Trestle carted ore from St. George Shaft to the furnaces at the Hacienda, the center of mining operations for New Almaden during the late 1800s.
First built in 1866, the Powder House served as a store house for mining explosives.
San Christobal Mine
San Christobal remains in very good condition; it’s entrance and immediate interior are still accessible.
A short distance from Bull Run, a once popular picnic area during New Almaden’s hay day, is the Catherine Tunnel. Long since abandoned, the tunnel is collapsed today.
More than anything, it is H.W. Gould’s 1939 invention, the Rotary Furnace, that gives hope to the renewed effort at New Almaden in the face of World War 2. The Rotary Furnace is able to refine ore much faster and on site. The end results of the installation are sealed flasks of mercury ready for shipment.
A lone residence remains on the site long known as Spanish Town.
The site at Spanish Town dates to the 1850s and served as the original (Spanish) hub of operations at New Almaden. It borders some of the most productive mines in the area.
One of the few remaining features of Spanish Town, Hidalgo cemetery is now empty of graves.
The Main Tunnel
The Main Tunnel is the original New Almaden mine. This is where the Spanish first discovered Cinnabar in the region (guided by the Ohlone) and was the nexus of the original Spanish mining operation at New Almaden.
Yellow Kid Tunnel
From 1894 to 1896, Yellow Kid was the most productive operation at New Almaden.
Mine Office and Map House at English Town
Cornish miners first established English Town in the 1860s, and it remained an important operational and domestic center for the life of New Almaden. Once you visit the Mine Office and Map House (built to renew mining operations in the wake of World War 2), return to your starting point on the Hacienda Trail.
Project Nike, a ground based missile defense system, protected the U.S. homeland from Soviet bombers from the 1950′s to 70′s. The Nike missile sites numbered in the hundreds; your goal is to hit just one: SF-51 above Pacifica, California.
Landing: Pacifica Pier, Pacifica, CA
It’s the Cold War in the late 1950s and the arms race is heating up. The USSR has released a spate of new long range bombers, including the Tupolev Tu-4, Tu-95, and Tu-16, all capable of North American strikes. In response, the U.S. has developed and deployed Project Nike to defend major metropolitan areas across the United States. These defensive stations are able to launch surface-to-air missiles and disable incoming airborne threats.
As a member of the Spetsnaz GRU – the Soviet Special Forces group – your job is to neutralize the Nike installation above Pacifica, CA: SF-51.
You will land on the Pacific seaboard and move undetected through the seaside town of Pacifica, CA. Once on the outskirts on the south side of town, head directly up the ridge to knock out the control site.
At a Project Nike Site such as SF-51, the control site (C) – Integrated Fire Control – operates the radar and tracking systems critical to guide missiles after launch and ensure they hit their target. The majority of the personnel are stationed here and by disabling it first, you will likely render any launch ineffective.
Once you finish with the control site, proceed north to the launch site (L). Here you will find a cement bunker that houses the actual MIM-3s, the Nike system’s specially built surface-to-air missiles. Neutralize the launch site and return to the Pacifica Pier for your extraction.
Soda Popinski’s in Nob Hill (San Francisco) serves Moscow Mules by the boot! Celebrate a job well done… Na Stro Via!
The cattlelands of western Sonoma were established as a series of Mexican land grants in the mid-1800s. The original ranchos are long since dissolved but the cattle are still ripe for the picking. Ride through the patchwork of Mexican Land Grants and rustle up some cattle!
+ 6085 / – 6091 FT
Insertion Point: Petaluma Adobe
In 1845, Mexico maintains a tenuous hold on its territory known as Alta California. For the first half of the 1800s, the Russians had pressured Mexican control of the region from the north, with its focal point at Fort Ross. Only recently have the Russians ceded their stance in Alta California. But in doing so, they sold their holdings to John Sutter, a Swiss with his own aspirations of sovereignty. Recently, settlers from Mexico’s expansive eastern neighbor, the United States, pose yet another threat to the region.
To solidify power through the sparsely populated territory of Alta California, first the Spanish and then their Mexican successors granted land, “Ranchos”, to elite military families and handpicked agricultural developers.
Without question, General Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo, officially the, “Military Commander and Director of Colonization of the Northern Frontier,” is Mexico’s most powerful and influential of such landholders in northern California. Among his holdings is Rancho Petaluma, the prize of lands north of Yerba Buena. Serving as the region’s administrative and socio-economic center, is the Petaluma Adobe.
The Petaluma Adobe employs 2,000 (mostly native American) workers, boasts 12,000 head of cattle and 3,000 sheep, and produces dozens of manufactured products from tanned hides to finished leather goods.
By 1845, Vallejo has held control of Rancho Petaluma for over 10 years. Only recently has the Mexican government granted the surrounding lands, and it did so to Vallejo’s former subordinates. These Ranchos are new and agriculturally undeveloped.
Starting at the Petaluma Adobe, round up Vallejo’s far ranging cattle. They’ve roamed throughout Rancho Petaluma and strayed into the surrounding, underdeveloped Ranchos. Visit each Rancho and drive the cattle home.
From Rancho Petaluma, ride around the perimeter of modern day Petaluma and head west.
Having served under Vallejo, Captain Juan Castaneda received this grant in 1844. It takes its name from a Miwok village of the same name (Kotati) and (in 1845) remains woefully underdeveloped.
Rancho Roblar de la Miseria
Riding northwest, trace the Petaluma River through Rancho Roblar de la Miseria (granted in 1845) and cross into Llano de Santa Rosa.
Rancho Llano de Santa rosa
Vallejo helped Joaquin Victor Carrillo II (his brother-in-law) obtain the Llano de Santa Rosa land grant in 1844. Joaquin founded the Analy township (near present day Sebastapol).
Rancho Canada de Jonive
James Black was a member of the trio that Vallejo sent to establish a northern bulwark against Russian expansion (centered at Fort Ross). Black’s Rancho (centered on modern day Freestone) is brand new in 1845, having received it for his service under Vallejo.
Rancho Estero Americano
Along with James Black, Edward McIntosh and James Dawson formed the trio of Anglos that Vallejo sent north in response to the Russian presence. They jointly earned the prized Rancho Estro Americano, but parted ways when Dawson was excluded from the official grant in 1839. Regardless, all three men were more interested in logging than ranching, in 1845 nothing remotely like the operation at Petaluma existed at Rancho Estero Americano.
Rancho Canada de Pogolimi
The Mexican government granted finally granted James Dawson’s own rancho posthumously (to his wife) in 1844. (It’s located near present day Valley Ford, CA.)
Made permanent in 1844 by Governor Manuel Micheltorena, the Swiss Jean Jacques Vioget has operated Rancho Blucher on a provisional basis since 1842. The grant spans the coast from Estero Americano in the north to Estero de San Antonio to the south.
Rancho Laguna de San Antonio
Granted in 1845 by Governor Pío Pico to Bartolomé Bojorquez, a soldier at the San Francico Presidio and descendent of the De anza expedition, Rancho Laguna de San Antonio surrounds Laguna Lake.
1845 stood on the eve of change in California. The very next year, the Bear Flag Revolt erupted in Sonoma, temporarily depriving Vallejo of his liberty and permanently divesting him of his wealth, charter, and legacy. What the Bear Flag Revolt left intact, the Mexican-American War further undermined and California Gold Rush, in the form of swarms of settlers and prospectors from across the globe, completely obliterated.
Visit Vallejo at his family home, Lachryma Montis, in Sonoma California. It somehow survived the Bear Flag Revolt and everything that followed. And, while in Sonoma, you may as well try a glass of wine.